Coming full circle ~ By Nicole V

He awoke with a start, his heart pounding from the strange dreams that he’d had. He had no idea how long he’d slept. The inky darkness stretched all around him … and the silence, the silence was deafening. His pulse still racing and joints aching, he felt all alone. He tried to shake off the stupor of sleep still clinging to him. Something felt different, somehow, and he felt a frisson of fear, quickly followed by a sensation of vague familiarity. Unable to put his finger on it, he shrugged it off as the sluggishness of his disturbed sleep. A blanket of inertia (or was it ennui? … he couldn’t quite tell) descended upon him as he peered into the darkness.

He thought about the strange dreams he’d had – of travel, new beginnings and faces of children he did not recognize. He smiled at the thought of children – he had grown up together with several of them, whose names and faces he still fondly remembered, for how could you forget those who had been young together with you? He had watched other children grow up as well, over the years, their names and faces imprinted on his mind. He could still hear the laughter and happy shouts of children at play, jumping into piles of raked autumn leaves, as the sky changed from blue to gold.

He remembered the colourful riot of spring flowers in bloom and sun-dappled mornings, as spring gambolled around bestowing a delightful freshness to everything in its path. He recalled the heady days of summer, of sun-drenched afternoons, the buzzing of bees and picnics by the lake shimmering with the kisses of sunshine sparkles. Even rainy days elicited such blissful laughter and adventure, as the fun moved indoors and make-believe castles, sand dunes and tents on the African savannah came to life right before his eyes. He fondly remembered the traditions of Christmases past, of food-laden tables groaning under the weight of family dinners and magnificent fir trees resplendent in red and gold. He had seen family traditions evolve over time and that Maugham quote he’d first heard by the roaring fire on a snow-flecked Christmas Eve – “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer” – flitted across his mind, like a butterfly’s gossamer wings. While he loved the distinctive traits of each season, he felt a special affinity with autumn, Keats’ “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – there was something about autumn that stirred the depths of his soul and made him feel gloriously alive. His eyes welled with tears as he thought of his childhood home in a little town and the ever-changing, always gorgeous autumnal hues of Mother Nature’s palette of glowing oranges, blazing reds and glorious yellows, and the cool, crisp and invigorating air he loved so deeply.

He sighed wearily at the vagaries of time, a dull ache in his heart for times long gone. How did the years slip away so quickly, almost in the blink of an eye? He wished that there was someone there he could talk to, but then again, he had never been much of a conversationalist, but oh, how he loved to listen. People always liked a good listener, he knew that. And it was amazing just how much one could learn by listening. A wave of nostalgia washed over him, as half-remembered conversations came flooding back … conversations on diverse topics such as art, music, books, movies and even decluttering. Decluttering, now there was a topic that seldom failed to arouse immediate interest and it seemed as if everyone (and their dog) had an opinion. He recalled animated conversations about obligation clutter and guilt, of finding good homes for special items, and of right-sizing. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d heard that William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. He agreed whole-heartedly with that quote though and even understood why obligation clutter could be such a burden, capable of breeding guilt, anger and resentment. He was convinced that valued items such as family heirlooms should be passed on to someone who would appreciate them, even if they were not family. For what could be worse than languishing unloved and unwanted in the deep, dark recesses of someone’s home? A wisp of a sigh escaped his lips as he fell into a wistful reverie.

His musings were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. They came closer and he heard the creak of the door as it opened. “That’s funny”, he thought, “I never noticed that creaking before”. A ray of light from the passageway outside dimly illuminated the room as he saw a silhouette enter and the sudden, sharp intake of his breath shattered the silence. She looked different. She strode towards the other side of the room and he held his breath and watched silently.

She drew the heavy drapes and flung open the windows. The sheer day curtains fluttered merrily like butterflies in the fresh breeze that gushed in, as golden sunlight enveloped the room. He inhaled deeply, momentarily distracted by the dust motes dancing in the sunbeams shining into the room, and just as it dawned on him that he was breathing in the very air he loved, he saw it … that sweeping panoramic vista from his childhood. Lookout Mountain. In Ringgold, Georgia. He was home again.

As she turned away from the windows, her gaze fell on the newly-arrived blanket chest and she smiled.

On 22 May 2015, Jeff shared his story (in the comments section) about a blanket chest that had been in his family for two centuries. Here are excerpts from his comments:

“After we moved into our new home, a blanket chest handed down in my mother’s family for two hundred years to the oldest daughter just didn’t fit. Our daughter, who is a wonderful young lady (otherwise!) didn’t have the slightest interest in it. My mother really treasured it, but I finally came to the conclusion I could part with it. I contacted a cousin who still lives on the original property in Georgia where it came from and asked her if she wanted it. She was thrilled! So I sent it back to its original home. That felt so good and liberating, knowing it would be lovingly taken care of and that I didn’t have to warehouse it anymore. I know also that my mother would be happy it was “back home.” Just today I sent the same cousin some Civil War papers from our great-grandfather who lived on that property. Again, what a relief! They won’t be blown away in a tornado, destroyed in a fire, or thrown away by those cleaning out our house when we die. …

… I sent it to Ringgold. My mother was born there about 1/4 mile south of the TN line. She always considered it home; the original house is there from the 1860s, with a gorgeous view of Lookout Mt. And the best part, I think, is that relatives still own that part of the property; it has never been sold! …

… It was made I think in the 1830s or so as a wedding gift from a father to his daughter, and it has been handed down to the oldest daughter since. In generations with no daughters, as in my grandfather’s (he was the oldest of his brothers) and mine – I’m an only child – the chest is kept for the next girl born. I’m breaking the tradition, but sending it back home, at least to me, makes up for that. The chest is in great shape for its age, btw.”

I kept thinking of the stories that chest could tell if it could talk – of people, places and events through the ages and that was how this story, a different perspective on decluttering, came to life. And the fact that the chest ended up back in Georgia made me think about how a new beginning can be created with another family, even if the sands of time run out for an heirloom, and how traditions that were once well-begun, have the potential to evolve and continue in the hands of others. The things that we no longer have a use for can have new beginnings with someone else, if we are willing to let go.

So, have you had to deal with any family heirlooms or re-home special items that had become obligation clutter? Or have you decluttered any traditions that, for whatever reason, you were unable or unwilling to continue? Do share your experiences.


For those not familiar with the story of Jeff and the granny chest here is a link to his comment.

Today’s Mini Mission

Gather up a group of similar items that have spread throughout your home. That may be pens, hair ties, nail files, small tools… Once you have them all together declutter the excess and store the rest in one place.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Dithering? ~ By Peggy W I have dithered many times in my decluttering journey, unable to make a decision about my stuff.  Two of the “ditherees” left my house this morning because I needed soft fillers to […]
  • What is right for you? I often get comments from people contradicting my suggestions regarding what to declutter and pleading their case on why they keep certain items or collections of things. Avid readers […]
  • Disposing of this weeks mission yields In a post a couple of weeks ago that asked a range of question about your clutter issues and my blog. One of the readers asked for more information on how to get rid of the clutter that […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. WOW! First time I’ve been IN a short story and not just reading one! (I taught English for 32 years) Thanks for a really cool story and the “commemoration” of my experience. In fact, I just talked with my cousin last night who called to thank me for sending the Civil War papers (or The War Between the States) back to her and her family. She was thrilled, as were her children and extended family. In fact, her daughter lives in the house built right after the War- 1876- and that is where the chest- we called it the Granny Chest- has found a home. All of this has really given me the impetus to continue the process by taking some other things back to my hometown. I’ll give it a plug here- Sulphur, OK- possibly the center of the universe. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area is there- part of the National Park system. It includes the old Platt National Park, once the smallest in the nation, and the beautiful Arbuckle Lake. I’m in contact with some people who are involved with the historical society there, and I’m hoping they would want some pictures and other articles of interest from the early days of the area.
    BTW, I’ve only seen the word ennui one other time- in the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Poe. You’re in good company, Nicole! And a wonderful writer!

    • I am glad to see Jeff, that you are the first person to comment on this post. I so very much enjoyed reading it when Nicole sent it through to me. And it pleases me even more that you were and English teacher so that you can appreciate her wonderful writing even more than some.

    • You’re welcome, Jeff … and thank you, not only for your kind words, but also for sharing your story with us. English teachers rock, btw! 😀

    • I cannot believe this…..I live just a few miles from the Ringgold area that you are describing….I have been reading Colleen’s blog for over a year now…I do not comment much but was blown away by the fact that someone from my own area also reads Colleen’s blog…awesome….and I love the fact that the chest have found it’s home.

      • How cool is that, Connie? That’s such a nice “small world” moment, and as they say, we’re all more connected than we think.

  2. What a wonderful story and post Nicole. We sent some things to my brother that were from long ago that we really didn’t want and he did. It was nice to know that he had good memories of them and wanted to display them. Sometimes it is nice to know that even though we don’t want them someone else in the family does.

    • Thank you, Deb J. I think it’s great that you passed on those items to your brother. Sometimes, no longer having a use for an item doesn’t automatically lead to being able to let it go.

  3. Hi Nicole, thank you so very much for writing this post for us. As I have already told you, I think it is wonderful and was so keen to see Jeff’s reaction to it.

    • Hi, Colleen.
      You’re welcome, I’m glad you liked it … I was a little worried that everyone might wonder what on earth I was blabbering on about. 😀 I appreciate your generosity and encouragement … thank you!

  4. Nicole,
    What a beautiful short story based on your wonderful imagination and Jeff’s post. If you are not already in the field of journalism, you should be. You have a passion for story telling and the written word.

  5. Oops, that emoticon was supposed to indicate me blushing, btw.

  6. Aww, the little hope chest made it home! Sniff.

    Great story!

  7. You need to write professionally if you aren’t already!
    Thanks for sharing this great post with the 365 Community.

  8. In our family, I’m the one who keeps the heirloom “stuff”. The steamer trunk that came from Sweden with my great-grandfather is my “coffee table” and holds the keepsakes we don’t use on a daily basis (blankets, baby clothes, my grandmother’s wedding dress, etc.). We use my grandmother’s china and serving dishes on a regular basis and the quilts and afghans that have gotten handed down are out on the beds, being used daily. I try to keep things we use or that are particularly meaningful – my grandmother-in-law’s WWII Army uniform jacket with all her awards and pins framed with a photo of her and her plane for example of the second.

    My cousin gifted me the steamer trunk after her father left it to her. She wasn’t interested but knew I was. I’m not sure if my children will care one day (and if not, they can get rid of “stuff”!) but I really enjoy furnishing my home with pieces of family history that have a story to tell.

    Good for you for sending pieces to those whole love them. Isn’t that what this is all about?


    • The steamer trunk and framed memento of your GIL must be great conversation starters, Lea. I think it’s lovely that you’ve used cherished pieces to personalize your home.

    • What a nice post, Lea.

      For anyone who owns heirloom pieces and you think your kids might not want them (or you don’t have children), one option to consider is to leave the pieces to a historical museum or society that collects such items. I don’t have any references, but I know there are organizations that want to preserve anything historical.

  9. Yes, I broke with tradition. My mother was a collector of anything glass, pottery, ceramic, etc. she loved old dishes and crystal. All of use kids (7) got a pretty water pitcher and saucer from her. I was doing a major decluttering of my home, and just didn’t want to keep my huge pitcher, but did so out of feelings of obligation and guilt. When I found out that a good friend loved it and had an old fashioned stand that holds those pitchers. I gave it to her and she is proudly showcasing it in her new home. It is now being loved the way my mom loved it. I still get to see it at her house. We are both very happy!! You don’t always have to keep these items, if you have someone who will love them, it feels great to pass them on.

    • I agree, Marsha. One of the nicest ways to let go of something is to ensure you leave it in good hands.

  10. Thanks for a great story Nicole! This one had a happy ending for all concerned.

  11. My husband and I have been parting with “old” things little by little… They have been sold and the proceeds are helping to expand our Travel Fund 🙂

  12. I like the quote “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer”.

    I have a book my great-grandmother was presented as a little girl, that is the total sum of my inherited items. If my daughters dont want it when the time comes I have written a note with the name and address of the museum (of the area my g.grandmother lived) that it can be sent to.

    • How thoughtful of you, Moni. Have your daughters expressed any interest in the book so far?

    • Hi Moni,

      Before I read your post, I commented above that people should consider leaving their heirlooms (if their heirs are not interested) to historical museums or societies. Good idea to leave a note as to where the book can be sent and preserved!